Category Archives: Tilt Your Head and Smile

Camp NaNo Update: Novel Complete!

My main goal for Camp NaNo was to write the third draft of my YA novel DEGENERATION by July 15. As anyone who was on Twitter around 3 am EST may have noticed, I accomplished my goal.

DEGENERATION is complete at 62,752 words. It’s not the 70k-75k I originally thought it would be, but it’s over 50k, and that’s really all I care about. Besides, 63k is a good length for a young adult novel.

I can now say that my phase outline experiment was a success. I loved having everything already planned out when I went to write. I still ended up making changes – adding conversations I hadn’t thought of originally or skipping parts that no longer seemed like a good idea – but for the most part I stuck with my outline. I’m not sure if this would be my best option for a brand new novel, but it’s definitely how I’m going to do my rewrites from now on.

In case anyone’s curious, I made a chart so I could see just how many actual words each outline word gave me. The short answer is that I got 5 words per 1 word of my outline, which isn’t bad. I was hoping for more like 7, but like I said, I’m happy with the overall length of my novel, so it doesn’t really matter. Here’s the chart, if anyone wants to see it:

Chapter

Outline Words

Novel Words

Novel Words: Outline Words

1

458

2859

6.2

2

380

3753

9.9

3

209

2509

12.0

4

330

3389

10.3

5

426

3535

8.3

6

289

2443

8.5

7

451

3540

7.8

8

882

3618

4.1

9

556

3206

5.8

10

1153

3989

3.5

11

944

4128

4.4

12

628

3194

5.1

13

593

2504

4.2

14

946

3213

3.4

15

584

2623

4.5

16

769

3700

4.8

17

569

2477

4.4

18

1036

3505

3.4

19

879

3273

3.7

20

325

1174

3.6

Total

12494

62752

5.0

So now what am I going to do with the rest of the month, you ask? (Oh, you didn’t ask? That’s okay. I’ll just pretend.) I haven’t quite decided yet. I originally thought I might continue the editing I was doing before on TILT YOUR HEAD AND SMILE. I’m halfway through the most recent draft, and I’m starting to think I might need to redo the entire novel. I’m not sure yet. I have an idea for how to make the novel more interesting, but I’m not sure if that idea is really a good fix for this one or if I should just write it as a separate novel.

My other idea is a new adult romance – but without all the gratuitous sex scenes. I can picture three of the main characters, but there are two more (two different love interests) that I still need to work on. I’ve been saying I’m going to plot this one for the last two weeks, but that never really happens. I have a few scenes in mind, but I still need to understand the characters before I can even attempt to pants a novel. Although I did write a thousand words in this story already. It was just the opening scene, but I actually kind of like it so far.

I’m probably going to spend the rest of the day trying to get to know the characters for that novel better. I haven’t had a 0 words day yet this month, and I’d like to keep it that way.

I can explain…

Loyal followers of this blog (assuming there are any left at this point) might notice that it’s been rather a while since I last posted anything. More specifically, it’s been about three months, or fourteen weeks if you want to be picky. I like to think I have a good excuse for my absence, but I’ll have to let you all decide that for yourselves.

See, I just finished up my last semester of grad school. In ten days, I will be graduating with my Masters degree in Secondary Education, which means I will soon be certified to teach English/Language Arts to students in grades 6-12. It’s very exciting. And terrifying. And soul-crushing as I’ve only had one face-to-face interview with a school I really wanted to join but never heard back from.

Anyway, as easy as the actual degree was to attain, this past several months have been rather stressful. For those who don’t know, the last semester of a teacher prep program is student teaching, which means that I was in a high school classroom every day from the start of the semester (the first week in January) to the end of April. Actually, my last day was April 25. Most of my time was spent observing my cooperating teacher and others. For a full month, though, I was the teacher in charge. I taught all five classes and graded their work. I liked it, but it was really stressful, particularly because I didn’t really know what I was doing half the time.

I taught Romeo and Juliet to a bunch of ninth graders. I actually had a lot of fun with it, and by the end of the unit I had a better understanding of how to actually engage them in what we were doing (wish I had figured that out sooner, but better late than never, I guess). I’m actually really sad that my time with them is done. They might not all have been the best students, but I’m going to miss getting to talk to them each day. There are so many kids, especially in the lower level classes, that need more help than I was able to give them, and I wish I could have done more to try to help them.

The reason all this is (sort of) relevant is because I didn’t really do much of anything else while this was happening. I read a bunch of books (I’m up to 20 total for the year, because apparently that’s still something I can do when I feel too tired to do anything else), but I didn’t really get much writing done. I didn’t even write reviews for most of those books, which means I still have 14 book reviews to catch up. I also didn’t finish editing TILT YOUR HEAD AND SMILE, which is now in its sixth draft.

But that is changing now. I’m done with school, and I’m going to start using this time to catch up on all the things I didn’t do before. I’ve already started, actually. I’ve edited three chapters in the past two days, which isn’t much but is a lot more than I have been doing. I’ve applied to more counties. I’ve exercised and made relatively healthy meal plans again. I’m getting back into the swing of things again. My goal is to get used to eating better and exercising and writing a little every day now, when I have free time, so that when I’m busy again in the fall, it’s not such a shock to my system.

I’ve also come up with a schedule to keep my on track for the next week and a half. I figure I have 21 chapters left to edit of TILT and 14 book reviews left to write. My goal is to write 2 book reviews and edit 3 chapters a day. I’m not entirely sure just how doable that plan is right now, but I’m going to start it tomorrow and see how that goes.

My editing process

As most of you probably know, I’ve been editing lately. This novel is the one that’s the closest to being finished (or at least as finished as it can get when no one but me has seen it), so I figured I would take this time to share what I have learned about editing.

This should go without saying, but just to make sure everyone’s clear about this: THIS IS JUST MY EDITING PROCESS! What works for me might not work for you. And that’s fine. This is not THE way to edit; it’s just MY way. All that matters is that you find a method that works for you. I’m sharing my process because I’ve found it can be helpful to see how other people edit. I like reading about other people’s editing processes to get ideas for how to improve my own and to help get me in the editing mood. As such, I’ve also added a list at the end of this post featuring the editing posts that I’ve found most helpful.

I should also mention that I am a planner, and some of what follows presupposes that you have gone into writing the first draft with some sort of plan. If you didn’t, that’s fine – you might just find that some of the specifics don’t apply to you.

Step 1: Figure out whatstory you wanted to tell.
The first thing I do, before I even look back at what I’ve written, is figure out what I hoped the novel would look like. I write a brief summary of what the overall plotline is, and then I jot down the main threads (plots and subplots) that appear and where I wanted those to go.

So with TILT YOUR HEAD AND SMILE, the novel I’m editing now, I basically had the following plots/subplots:
○ College/career (main plot)
○ Romance
○ Parental pride
○ Sibling rivalry
○ Friendship

I’m not going to share my summaries because that would give things away. But I would just write down what’s happening in each thread at the beginning, middle, and end of the novel – or at least what I wanted to have happen. If I added a new subplot while writing, I will go ahead and add it to this list. Once I have a clear understanding of all of the plots and subplots that I wanted to include, I am ready to move on to the next step.

• Step 2: Read the manuscript.
As some of you might know, I have a habit of throwing out my first drafts. That’s part of why I write them so fast – the first draft is just a practice round for me to figure out how my original outline works. Occasionally I’ll write a first draft I like, but more often than not I’ll end up throwing it out and writing a second draft, and then it’s that second draft that I’ll end up editing. But before I can do that, I have to determine if the draft is worth saving.

That’s what this reading is for. I never print out my work until it’s gone through the first few rounds of editing (because I’ve learned that I waste way too much paper if I print out the first draft), so I just read it on my Nook. But you can read it however works best for you. I like to try to read as much of it at one time as I can so it’s all fresh in my mind. I also generally have a notebook next to me so I can jot down any notes I have about big picture problems – mostly thinks dealing with the plots/subplots listed above.

When I’m done reading, I look over my notes and think about what I read and decide if it can be fixed or if it needs to be completely rewritten. If it needs to be rewritten (as most of mine do), I’ll start back at the planning phase and then write a new draft and then start back over at step 1. If it doesn’t need to be completely rewritten, then I move on to the next step.

For TILT, I had already rewritten it several times, and I had reread it back in September, so I knew that I didn’t have to start all over again. So when I started editing it again this month, I started on Step 3.

• Step 3: Make the spreadsheet.
In the past I’ve written this down on notebook paper, but I started using Excel this time because it was easier to go back and add things. I figure the first two scenes won’t really give much away, so I’ve included a sample picture:

editing chart

As you can see, I start with the chapter and scene. I keep a running total of all scenes (1-92), but you could also do it by chapter (Ch. 1, Scenes 1-3; Ch. 2, Scenes 1-2). I include a summary of what happens – just enough to help me remember the key parts of the scene – and then a justification of why that scene is important. Sometimes it’s not the whole scene that matters but rather a bit of information that we learn in this chapter. I’ve found this is helpful for deciding when to cut a scene. If it’s only important because it contains the same information as something else – or if I could just as easily share that information a different way, I know I can cut the scene.

Next I list all the characters present and then use parentheses to list characters that are mentioned even if they aren’t physically there – though if someone’s communicating via phone or computer, I consider that present. I used to only list main characters, but then I started including all characters, which was helpful when trying to decide if I had too many characters who only showed up for one scene.

For the thread column, I list the main threads that appear in the scene and then use the parentheses to show threads that appear but aren’t the main focus. For instance, the first scene in TILT is mostly about how she’s about to graduate college, and we just see a small hint about the romance plot, so the romance thread is mentioned in parentheses. For the second scene, on the other hand, all three threads are of equal importance, so none of them go in parentheses.

Notes and word count are, I think, pretty obvious. While I do not yet care about the length of each chapter, I like having that information there because it will be useful later.

• Step 4: Read and highlight – and fill in the spreadsheet.
Now I go through the novel again, filling in the spreadsheet as I go. I also highlight the text and write notes about things to fix. If there’s a paragraph I’m thinking about deleting, I’ll highlight it orange. If it’s a paragraph I want to rewrite later, I’ll highlight it yellow. If I need to add more description or setting information, I’ll highlight it green. If there’s something that doesn’t work with the plot, or something that I feel should be expanded, I’ll highlight it blue. Character problems are highlighted pink. Then I fill out the “notes” column on the spreadsheet to remind myself of what needs to be fixed, or possible scenes to add or delete.

If this were my first time reaching this stage with a manuscript, I would try not to make any changes until I had gone through the whole thing. Since this is draft 5.2, though, I felt safe making some changes as I went. So I went ahead and wrote in a couple of scenes and deleted a few that I knew for a fact were not adding anything to the novel. Although it should be noted that these “deleted scenes” went into a special Scrivener folder – just in case I later changed my mind and wanted to bring them back. I also fixed typos and awkward sentences as I went – for the most part. Anything that required serious thought, though, I made a note to fix later.

Step 5: Examine notes and make changes.
Depending on how detailed my notes were in previous steps, this could be a simple matter of just making a checklist for each scene, or I could have to write a whole new outline. If there’s a weak thread, I have to figure out how to make it better. Then, once I have a game plan for what I need to fix, I start making the changes. I have to rewrite scenes and add new ones. If I’ve deleted something, I have to make sure that the story still flows. If there was important information there, I have to find a way to include it elsewhere. If this is my first time through the novel, this takes a lot of time.

For this particular novel, I made most of the changes as I went because, like I said, this is draft 5. I was pretty sure I had most of the novel in order, and I got impatient and went ahead and made most of the changes as I went. But often this is the stage where I get stuck. I start making changes and then get overwhelmed and stop and then never come back.

• Step 6: Rest and (possibly) reread.
Once I’ve made all the changes I planned on making, I let the manuscript rest a while. At least a week. Maybe longer. Depends on what else is going on. If I’ve made a bunch of changes in the last round of edits, I’ll reread it – once again without taking too many notes. The goal is just to see if I’m done with the big picture edits. Do I have all the scenes I wanted? Are there any scenes to get rid of? Are all the characters developed? Are the plot lines as developed as I wanted?

If there are still big-picture issues to sort through, I’ll go back and work on those, following the same steps as outlined above. If I’m happy with it, though, I’ll move on to the next step. Note: “happy with it” doesn’t necessarily mean I think it’s as good as it can get. It just means that I’m happy with the order of all the scenes and that I don’t wish to add or delete any.

• Step 7: Print out the manuscript and reread and take notes.
When the big-picture edits are done, I feel comfortable printing out my novel. I’ve tried to print my novels out before this part, and I always end up hating myself for wasting the paper and ink when I inevitably throw the whole thing out and start over. Now I wait until I’m reasonably sure I’m not going to make any more big changes, and then I print it out. Now I make sure that there are no grammar or punctuation mistakes. I fix oddly worded sentences. Basically, all the line and copy edits occur now. I should probably separate this phase, but I just can’t do it. Really, I probably will have been fixing problems as I’ve seen them, but I try to hold off until this point.

• Step 8: Make changes, rest, and reread (again).
Hopefully this time the changes are easier to make than in step 5 because these shouldn’t be major changes at this point. It should really just be a matter of typing up the changes that I wrote on the paper copy. Then I’ll let it sit for a little while longer (again, depends on what else I’m doing), and I’ll read it again to make sure I didn’t miss anything. This is my final draft before I show it to anyone else.

• Step 9: Get outside opinions.
This is the point where I would share it with beta readers or critique partners or whatever. Or, as is the case with me, this is when I try to find a critique partner for the novel.

So that’s my editing process. As promised, here are the links to some of my favorite posts on editing:
Tackling Revisions by Susan Dennard @ Publishing Crawl
Marissa Meyer’s “Process for Major Revisions”
Jody Hedlund’s “Self-Editing Checklist”
Holly Lisle’s “One-Pass Manuscript Revision”

Life After NaNo

It’s been about a week and a half since NaNo ended, which means it’s been about a week and a half since I updated my blog. I wish I could say that the reason I’ve been so neglectful is that I’ve been super productive, but the truth is that I’ve been lazy. I’ve watched a lot of TV with my parents and boyfriend to make up for the time I didn’t spend with them in November. I’ve been playing video games (mostly Fable: The Lost Chapters). I read a book.

And all that was fun, but now I’m ready to start being more productive. As some of you might recall, back in October I said that I was going to start editing Tilt Your Head and Smile, my contemporary NA that I’ve written at least three times. Although somehow it’s now labeled as Draft 5. But anyway – that’s what I was going to do before I decided to do NaNo, so that’s what I’ve gone back to. I’ll do a post on how I edit soon, but for now I’ll just say that I’ve created a spreadsheet and have already gone through the first four chapters, and I mostly like what I have. I’m a bit unclear about the relevancy of some of the stuff, but I’ll wait to make big changes until after I’ve gone through the whole thing.

I have to say, it feels good to be doing something again. I’ve spent a lot of time lately feeling sort of lost and confused. This always happens to me after NaNo is over. I keep checking the forums, but there’s not really much there to hold my interest. I keep trying to find something fun to do online, some new article to read or something, but nothing catches my eye. But instead of just editing or getting off the computer, I end up just sitting there, being bored. It’s incredibly stupid, but it generally takes me at least a week to break out of this phase. At least I’ve moved on now.

Of course, one other thing I should be doing is catching up on all of the book reviews that I should have written this year but didn’t. I read those 24 books for my YA lit class (and even read a few more than were required), but I didn’t write reviews for most of them because I was reading so fast and kept putting them off. And then I didn’t write them in October because I was trying to use that time to prepare for NaNo.

I thought about how to best deal with the lack of book reviews, and I’ve finally decided what I’m going to do. Rather than post the 16 book reviews here and flood your inboxes (because you are following my blog, right?) with posts about books, I’m just going to post them to GoodReads and then link them here in one post so you know when they’re up (if you care – which you totally should). From now on, I’ll be better about writing the reviews as I finish the books so I don’t get behind.

So that’s what I’ve been up to since NaNo ended. What have you been up to? Still writing? Editing? Doing something completely unrelated?

The one where I decide to do NaNo over my own objections

For those of you who have known me for a while, you know that I usually do NaNoWriMo in November. You might also remember that I had a rather difficult month last NaNo. I wrote 242k, but my heart wasn’t really in it. If you go through the archives for all the November 2012 posts, you’ll see that I wrote a lot about all the hate directed at Overachievers – people who aim to write more than 50,000 words in November. I felt alienated from my region and most of the people on the forums, and it just really got me down. The competition wasn’t fun anymore.

So I decided to stop. I took all the NaNo stickers off my laptop. I wrote during the first Camp NaNo, but I didn’t join the cabins or post on the website; I just wrote with people on Twitter when they were writing. I tried to get into the cabin thing for the second camp, but it just didn’t work. I didn’t care about NaNo anymore, and I didn’t want to waste my time supporting something that didn’t seem to want me there at all. I still supported the idea of NaNo, but I swore I was never going to participate in another NaNo event again. I actually almost included that in my last post, but it was already getting kind of long, so I figured I’d write about it later.

Then, October 2, the day after I almost posted about how I would never do NaNo again, I got an email announcing the new forums. I don’t know why I looked. It was 6 am, and I had 20 minutes before I had to leave for school. But I looked anyway. I scrolled through the forums. And that’s when I saw it.

The Beyond 50k forum.

Finally, the Overachievers have a forum. A place where you can complain about how you’re having problems hitting 20k in a day, and people won’t criticize you. I was happy when I saw it, but I still didn’t think I would do NaNo. Once the joy of something dies inside me, it’s really hard to get it back. Or so I thought.

And then I started reading the comments. I saw so many people I hadn’t talked to in a year, people who had made me feel better when everyone else made me want to curl up in a corner and never speak to the world again. And I realized that part of me did still care. It wasn’t as much as it had been, but I wasn’t completely indifferent anymore.

And then I set a goal. And then more goals.

A total of 250,000 words.

A 50k day one.

At least one 50k weekend, possibly two.

Four or five novels, depending on how many I need to reach 250k.

I’ve decided that this is going to be my redo for last year. Last year I failed 50k day one (hit 30.5k instead). I failed my goal of 250k (hit 242k instead). This year I’m not going to fail. I’m not going to let other people get me down. I’m going to stay in my nice, safe OA forum. I’m probably going to avoid most regional events, although there are still some people in the region that I like (namely the ones who helped support me last year).

I’ve spent the last five days trying to figure out what to write. I still want to edit Tilt before the month ends. I’m going to rewrite Degeneration as part of NaNo. I have three other novels that I’m trying to outline. I’d really like one more novel as a backup plan, but I’m going to focus on the ones I already have for now.

I’ve already been doing my school work ahead of time, but I’ve doubled my efforts. I’ve done all but one assignment that’s due in November and that I can actually start early. I’ll be busier than I was last year, but I’m still hopeful that I can get this all done.

Hello, October. Where did you come from?

So, remember that blog post I wrote back in August, the one where I felt the need to assure everyone that I wasn’t dead and then complained about all the stuff I hadn’t done and vowed to do better the next month?

Yeah, this is another one of those.

I haven’t written a single post that wasn’t about someone else’s book since August 19. A huge reason for that is that I started my penultimate semester of grad school on August 20. My first class was YA Literature, which I was really excited about. I still am, mostly. For that class, I have to read 24 YA books. I’m currently reading book 24. Yes, I’ve 24 books in 6 weeks (6 weeks and 1 day if I finish the book tomorrow instead of today). Only two of those books have been less than 215 pages. Four I would classify more as MG than YA. But still – that’s a lot of reading.

This is part of my problem. I’m bad at multitasking. I should have just stuck with reading two books a week and then found a way to fit writing into that, too. Instead, I threw myself into reading. I wanted to see how fast I could read those 24 books. I liked being able to read without feeling guilty, like I was supposed to be doing something else. Yes, I should have been writing, but reading was homework, and homework is always more important.

Well, like I said, I’m about to be done with book 24. That means I should really cool it with the reading. I’m not saying I should stop, because I love reading, and I’ve really enjoyed the past 6 weeks. I’ve read so many books that I’ve been meaning to read for a while, and I want to keep going. I’ve read 62 books this year, and I really want to see how high I can get that number.

But I also want to do other things, which means I shouldn’t keep reading at that pace. I would have nearly had to post a book review a day to keep up with all the books I was reading. I still have two book reviews that I wrote but forgot to post, and I have nine more books that I’ve read but haven’t written reviews for. I’m not really having fun writing them, and anyone who follows this blog for the writing has probably been pretty sick of the book reviews.

So starting now, I’m going to try to go back to posting 1-2 book reviews a week. I’m also going to try to write at least one post per week that’s about writing. And in order to do that, I should actually write something.

My grandmother was in the hospital at the beginning of the month, and my mom was gone for several weeks to be with her. That trip and what she told me about it gave me a lot of ideas for how to make Degeneration a better novel. I will have to go back over my outline for that one and rewrite more than I thought I would, but I’m okay with that. I feel even better about that novel than I did in August. I know for sure where it’s going.

I also want to work on Tilt Your Head and Smile. I haven’t read that one since I rewrote it back in July, but I remember liking it and feeling like I finally got it right. I just rejoined a critique group, and I’ve been wondering which novel to give them. I think I’m going to read/review Tilt and then see what they think of it. Then I’ll work on Degeneration, since that one will take more time.

I’ve spend so much time jumping back and forth between novels. It’s like I don’t want to finish-finish one until they’re all at the same level, which is stupid. I have a new novel idea that I’ve been writing down notes for, but I’m refusing to let myself write it until the three that I am closest to finishing (Tilt, Degeneration, and For Real This Time) are actually finished.

So, yeah, those are my goals. Edit Tilt. Rewrite Degeneration. Stop reading 4 books a week.

And not have my next writing post be November 1 saying “Gee, where the hell did October go?”

Camp NaNo – complete

Another Camp NaNo has come to an end. My goal this month was to finish draft 3 of Tilt Your Head and Smile, my NA novel about a young woman who graduates college, can’t find a job, and struggles to figure out what she wants to do with her life.

Slightly before four o’clock this morning, I wrote the last sentence of the manuscript. I was four hours late finishing, but I still finished before I went to bed, so I’m counting this as a win. Here are some statistics:

Word Count: 105,897
Chapters: 25
Hours Spent Writing:48.5
Average Words per Chapter: 4,236
Average Words per Hour: 2,183

Now, the hours spent writing number is only the time spent actively writing, not the time I spent staring at the screen doing nothing or reading Twitter or playing stupid Facebook games. But I’m still happy with what I accomplished this month. This is the first NaNo I’ve done in grad school when I actually had a bunch of homework to do, so I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t have enough time to write. I’m glad to say that my fears were unfounded. Of course, it helps that I only had school for half the month – although it was an intense half a month.

This morning was the first day in a long time that I didn’t wake up feeling like I was supposed to be doing something. It was nice, but now I’m just sort of sitting on the couch wondering what I’m supposed to be doing. I’ll probably end up spending the day reading. I’ve started reading a non-fiction book that I feel will help me plan the next book I’ll be working on – my political dystopian novel.

Right now, my plan is to spend the month preparing for the next draft of Alone (the aforementioned dystopia). I’m not sure what I’ll do after that. I have three different novels that I want to edit (not counting the one I just finished). I also have several other novels that I’ve never actually managed to finish. I guess I’ll just take this one step at a time and see what I want to do after I figure out Alone.

Anyone else participate in Camp NaNo? If so, how’d you do? If not, did you accomplish anything else fun this past month?

Camp NaNo Update #2

I’m really bad at writing Camp NaNo updates. Part of my problem is that I want to wait until I’m done writing for the day to write them, but then I don’t finish writing until right before I collapse into bed, and that’s not really the best time to write a blog post. Since it’s been like a week and a half since my last update, though, I figure it’s probably best if I actually pull it together long enough to write this.

This past weekend (Friday afternoon until Monday afternoon), I was on vacation with my parents, my boyfriend, and my sister and her boyfriend. We rented a house on a lake, and we spent most of the time swimming and playing games. It was a lot of fun but not very conducive to writing. I had one good night of writing while everyone else was playing ping pong downstairs, but I still only managed to write 5,884 words the entire weekend.

Monday I drove back for my last class of the summer semester. I had a debate and a huge project due. I ended up getting an A on both assignments, and I learned that I passed the English GACE (the test that I needed to pass in order to get my teaching certification). I decided to spend the night relaxing and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my boyfriend. Not a productive evening, but it was fun.

Last night I started being productive again. I wrote 7,893 words, which I feel is a good start on making up for the words I didn’t write this weekend. I have nothing to do for the next month, so I’m definitely going to be putting my all into writing. Well, writing and reading, because I have 3 library books out right now and 2 books that I promised people I would read and review. So, yeah, lots of reading to do, too. I’m definitely looking forward to the next few weeks. 🙂

For those who don’t know, here are my current stats for Tilt Your Head and Smile:

Total Words: 70,104
Average Words per Day: 4,382
Total Chapters: 13
Average Words per Chapter: 5,842

At this rate, TYHAS will be about 135k – a bit much for a contemporary/literary NA novel. Of course, my novels tend to get shorter with edits, so that’s comforting. I have this problem where I’m always afraid that I’m leaving out important information. I guess I have this other habit of trying to skip scenes that are too hard for me to write, and I end up taking the easy way out and wind up staring at my “finished” manuscript, which isn’t really finished at all. In an order to fight that, I try to force myself to write everything, even stuff that should really just be summarized, and that’s how I end up with super long novels. That’s also why draft 2 tends to be shorter.

I am starting to work on a different method of outlining, though. I still have my original outline, which is about 6,100 words long and is broken up into chapters and details what happens with each different plot line in that chapter. I tried to put those in order within each chapter, but some chapters need a lot of switching around/breaking up/combining in other ways. This is all fine with me, as it seems to be working for now.

But now what I’m doing is going back through and outlining each chapter more specifically right before I write it. In the past, I’ve just gone through and made my notes a bit more detailed. Now, though, I’m also going through and trying to figure out which parts need to be actual scenes and which could just be summaries. I just started doing this last night, but it definitely helped me finish that last chapter faster – but in a way that still made sense.

Camp NaNo update: Going nowhere fast

So I’ve realized we’re about to finish the first week of Camp NaNo, and I haven’t updated this blog once. It’s time to fix that. First, some stats:

Current word count: 31,509
Average word count per day: 5,252

That’s not bad considering the fact that I didn’t write at all on Friday because I was finishing up a major project that accounts for 20 percent of my grade in my online class and the fact that I only got an hour of writing done on the fourth of July because I was out of the house with friends all day. I’ve finished through chapter 5 in my outline, although one of the chapters is going to be broken up, as it’s about 11k all by itself, which is a bit ridiculous. If I split that into two chapters, my average chapter length is the same as my daily word count, 5252. That’s still a bit longer than my chapters usually are, but maybe that’s just the way this manuscript is going to go, because I actually think most of my chapters are about that long even when I’m not finding the average.

As a reminder, this month I’m writing yet another draft of my NA novel TILT YOUR HEAD AND SMILE. I first wrote this novel for NaNo 2011. I wrote the first 50k, changed the format halfway through, and wrote another 50k, bringing my total up to 100k for that draft. Then I rewrote it for JanNoWriMo, and that draft was again 100k. I got about halfway through editing that one and rewriting parts of it when I decided to work on something else.

That was all before I realized that New Adult was a thing. I was calling my novel literary fiction. Now I’m calling it contemporary NA. I changed the plot around some. I added a romantic subplot. The romance really is just one of the subplots, though, so I don’t feel too bad about adding it. And April is now going to be learning more about herself than she was in the last several drafts, so I’m excited about this version. I’m still going to have to do major revisions when I’m done with this draft (because I tend to ramble just as much in my drafts as I do in my blog posts), but I’m excited because I think I might finally have the basic plot of this one figured out.

Of course, part of the problem I’m noticing with this draft is that I’m 31k into it and only just finished chapter 5 out of 26. If I continue at this pace, this story is going to be like 137k, which is just a tad too long (read: way too long) for a NA novel. I’m starting to think my goal of 80k was a bit too low. Still, I remember this happening the first time I wrote this, too. I think I just need to get into my groove and it will figure itself out. Or I’ll just end up cutting thousands of words when I revise. I usually end up doing that, too.

That’s one thing I’ve noticed about my writing process: I’m great at adding words to novels, but I rarely actually make progress with those novels. I mean, really, I’m 30k into the novel, and she hasn’t even reached her “to hell with all of this” point that makes her start looking for a real job. This novel takes play between May 2010 and March 2012, and I’ve only just reached the first week of June 2010. And I’m at 30k.

I have problems.

Still, this is a first draft. Well, okay, this is a third draft. But still. It’s a draft. It’s my first time drafting this particular version of this novel. I don’t care if it’s good. I care if it’s done. I’ll make it good later.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some writing to do. 🙂

Character Monday: April Trindles (from TILT YOUR HEAD AND SMILE)

Okay, so, as someone might have noticed, I forgot to do Character Monday last week. I was reminded about it right as I was getting ready to walk out the door to hang out with some Wrimos for Memorial Day, and I didn’t get back until almost 2 in the morning. Instead of rushing to try to post something late, I decided just to skip last week.

Name: April Trindles

Novel: Tilt Your Head and Smile (Contemporary New Adult)

Age: 21

Appearance: About 5’8. Slightly heavy. Brown hair and brown eyes. When she’s going to an interview, she’s dressed in business attire. The further we progress in the novel, the more time she spends in her pajamas.

Background: April’s just graduated from college, and she finds herself moving back in with her parents and younger sister. She’s near her family and boyfriend, but she can’t seem to find a job, and that leads her slowly into depression.

Personality: Not a big risk taker. At all. Goes with the flow. Keeps her feelings to herself so she doesn’t bother anyone. Afraid to admit what she really wants out of life.

Why you should want to read her story: April was told that if she did well in school, she would do well in life. Now she’s learning that that was a big fat lie. Her dropout sister is doing better than she is. She’s in a relationship that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Her parents are sure to be disappointed in her. She’s the only one she knows (besides her father) who can’t find a job. Can she ever figure out what she wants out of life? And if she does, will she have the guts to go for it?

Playlist:
1. Down by Jason Walker
I shot for the sky
I’m stuck on the ground
So why do I try, I know I’m gonna to fall down

2. Shattered (Turn the Car Around) by O.A.R.
How many times can I break till I shatter?
Over the line, can’t define what I’m after
I always turn the car around

3. This is Your Life by Switchfoot
This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed it would be

4. Downtrodden by Abney Park
I learned each virtue I was told
I worked hard to avoid the mold
But as I saw my life unfold
There was no place for me.

5. I Wish I Could Go Back to College from Avenue Q
I wish I could go back to college.
In college you know who you are.
You sit in the quad and think ‘Oh my god,
I am totally gonna go far’

Want to participate in Character Monday? Just write a post on your own blog and then click on the linky below and share the link to the post so the rest of us can learn about your awesome character!